Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

At the Fair

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not quite a Wordless Wednesday

Jo canning peaches.

Fourteen years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. I was so certain that the baby was a boy that really, I didn't entertain any other options. Sure, sure, we came up with a girl's name. Just in case, you know.

Good thing I liked that name, huh?

Although I had no idea at the time what on earth God was thinking sending me a GIRL, I now thank Him for that gift every day. Because while I'm certain that having a boy first would have been an amazing blessing, having a girl--this girl--has been all that and more. God knew what He was doing. Imagine that.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Congrats to Mrs. Joseph Wood for winning the Best Bottom giveaway! Maybe she'll pop back by and let us know what color she chose for her cover. Enjoy diapering that newest little bottom, Mrs. Wood!

Remember, the Envibum giveaway is still open. :-) 

Winners chosen via Screenshot available upon request.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Suffer the little children

Every once in a while, I'm reminded of what my boys' lives would be like if they hadn't found their family. It's usually an unpleasant reminder. The foster mom acquaintance I run into at Staples telling me about her newest foster son, who is 8, has FAS and RAD, and is probably headed to a group home. A photolisting snapshot of a beautiful, broken little boy whose whole life story is summed up in one pleading paragraph that is emailed to countless potential parents by a desperate social worker. A news article outlining how an innocent child was beaten to death by the people who were supposed to love and care for him the most.

Those reminders bring up an emotion that I have no words for. It's something like fear mixed with gratitude, or love swirled with a heady offering of the deepest kind of horror that a momma's heart can conjure. I leave those moments and usually grab on to the nearest child as if they are a life-preserver. As if their sweet smell can erase the hurtful waters I've just dipped my emotional toes into. As if just feeling the weight of a loved, safe child--any loved, safe child-- in my arms can erase the knowledge that someone, somewhere did horrible things to my babies and I could not stop them. As if holding that child can erase the knowledge that somewhere, right now, other children are hungry, or being hurt, or wondering why their momma hits or why the mean man has been allowed to come around again.

These are the grim thoughts that plague me when I wake up in the middle of the night and should be basking in the silence of my blessings. Always, always, my prayers slip from, "Lord, I have more than I deserve. You are so good, so good to us. You provide, you meet needs, you lavish us with more than we could ask," to, "But Lord, please be with those who feel fear tonight, with those who went to bed with empty stomachs, with those ..."

And on and on.

Because the needs never stop. And the hurt never stops. And the brokenness in the world? 

It never stops.

We can't fix it. That the truth, and I know it. I'm not so naive as to think that if we all just gave it our 110% that we'd stamp out sin in this world. It doesn't work like that, no matter how good it sounds. That's why we need Jesus. I get that. I accept it. I shout it from the rooftops.

So if the world is terribleawful, as my Mamaw likes to say, and we can't just "good deed it" into shape, what's the point?

The point is this: you might just make a difference for one suffering soul. Just one. And when you see the change in that one little person, you'll know that it was all worth it.

Adoption is an incredible way to change the trajectory of a life, a family, a community. When I look at my boys and see the blessing that they've been to the literally hundreds of people who have heard their stories, cuddled them at Sunday School, or seen their smiling faces, I can't even imagine that at one point in time I feared the unknown of bringing someone new into our family. We have had challenges (admittedly mild ones--I know others who have swam in far rougher adoption waters), we have been stretched, but ohmygoodness, we have experienced so much joy. Adoption is an amazing thing. Click here to see one of the most beautiful, moving testimonies on adoption that I've seen in a while.  I encourage everyone (yes, everyone) to pray about it and see what the Lord has to say to you on whether or not your nest is truly full.

But what if the answer is "No, adoption isn't for you"? Please, please, consider this: there are so many other ways to bring healing and succor to children in the world. Get creative. Ask God to lay it on your heart how you can specifically show Christ's love in a practical way. Then stand back and be ready to serve, because in my experience it doesn't take long before God takes you up on the offer and starts bringing opportunities to bless children to your doorstep.

Part of my family's work in Nepal involves running a children's home. This is the orphanage where Bee lives. After a series of partially comical, partially tragic circumstances, the operations of the orphanage were handed over to the nonprofit run founded by Mr. Blandings and I. It's been an eye-opening learning curve, to be sure. Paying staff, locating massive amounts of fresh, nutritious food, encouraging teens via telephone to resolve differences, finding appropriate Christian schooling options ... all while on the other side of the globe. Faith-stretching, yes. But exhilarating, as well, as we witness God's hand of protection and provision over the lives of 24 of His children-- 24 of His forgotten, cast-off children.

Let me be honest with you, though. There are days when running the home feels like a very heavy weight to bear. Why? Because out of 24 children, we have 5 without sponsors. That means that every month, we are short on finances, and corners have to be cut. A little more water has to be added to the evening dal baat. A pair of shoes has to wait to be replaced. Broken eye glasses have to be fixed with tape instead of being sent in for repair. Little things, to be sure. Little things especially in light of the bigger demons that threaten to swallow children whole in a country where child trafficking is a daily threat, and abandonment to the streets is commonplace. 

Mr. Blandings and I have been working for three months to find sponsors for our five beautiful Nepali children. While we've always known that adoption was a hard sell even in the Christian community, it's been shocking to us that the simple act of writing a check to provide for a child's basic needs is just as unlikely an action for many of those same Christians. Fifty dollars a month, we're told at every turn, is too much to ask to keep a warm roof over a child's head in a country where many kids crouch in filthy streets or huddle in freezing huts. Fifty dollars a month is too much to ask to feed a child in a country where 30,000 infants don't make it to their first birthday. Fifty dollars a month is too much to clothe a child who might otherwise be working in an Indian brothel. Fifty dollars a month is too much to provide a Christian education in a country where less than one percent of the population knows Jesus.


I don't get it.

Maybe adoption isn't for you. Maybe sponsoring a child isn't for you. Maybe you aren't meant to provide foster care, be a guardian ad litem, participate in a mission trip that takes you to another country to minister to hurting kids. But you can do something. Bring a neighbor's kid along with you to church. Find a local teen mom's group and volunteer to call a young mom once a week to answer questions and provide encouragement. Provide safe, no-cost daycare in your home for an at-risk child who might otherwise be a latch-key kid. Keep a close eye on the kid down the street who always seems to be the object of his parents screams. Buy gifts for Angel Tree kids. 

Don't be afraid of getting your hands dirty, writing a check, or loving in practical ways. Jesus wasn't. When we follow His example we get to see amazing things happen. Little bodies blossom, little minds grow, little spirits turn to Him. It's one of the most humbling things in the world to witness, I tell you.

No, we can't change the world. But we can change lives. And it's worth it. Trust me. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Mani, age 3

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My verse for this season

Some days, I worry.

I worry about whether Seven will maintain her never-astute interest in nursing past the one year mark.

I worry that Atticus isn't just slightly eclectic, but is actually noticeably different.

I worry that Bee is walking to school alone.

I worry that Mr. Blandings will lose his job come election time.

I worry that Jo is too sweet, and the Soccer Mom down the street is right--"normal" teen girls are just nasty.

I worry that Logan has a more serious auditory processing problem than I realize, and he will suffer for my lack of attention to it in adulthood.

I worry that my grandparents are too ill to take care of themselves.

I worry that Mani will have a hard time grappling with the facts of his adoption.

I worry that I'm going to hate the weather in Nepal.

Oli (left) will be 5 in December. Mani (right) just turned 3.

I worry that Oli is never going to claw his way on to the growth charts.

The list goes on and on. If I wanted to, I could probably conjure a concern for each of the 24 hours in a day, and not repeat a single one.

Right now, I am in a season where I am constantly beset by things that, if I gave them power, could cause me immeasurable worry. There's the fundraising, the new high schooler, the preparing to leave the country, the boys careening into new "young man" development, the unknowns of Oli's health and development, Mr. Blandings employment, my sick grandparents, et al.

Everything. There's ... everything.

Finally, realizing that I was tiptoeing into "Hey, Lord, hand that one back over to me because I think I can take it from here," territory, I recalled this verse, and was refreshed:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.--Phillippians 4:6

Every time I try to interest Seven in nursing and fail, I need to pray. I need to thank Him for the past 11 months, and ask that if it's His will, she would keep nursing through the winter. But then I need to lay it down and release the non-existent bands of control that I keep trying to pull around the situation. The same with Bee walking to school. I can't do anything about it. I can't keep her safe, create a barrier around her, or chase away any potential baddies. But God can. When it comes to mind, I should pray. Thank God for her safety thus far, and ask that He keep watch yet again. 

The list goes on and on.

You'd think I'd have learned this lesson. But somehow, it always creeps to the background when my heart starts to worry. God is in control. Pray. Just pray. And have peace.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Homeschooling is dangerous.

The grocery store clerk, your mother-in-law, the woman at church who teaches 6th grade at the public school ... they've all been telling you this for years.

I'm here to tell you that they're right. Homeschooling is not to be taken lightly. It's not a choice to be made flippantly. It's not something you can just do, or not do.

No. Homeschooling is dangerous, and should be treated as such. 

What makes it such a heavy undertaking? It's not the fact that your kids may not learn how to hold their pencils correctly, or might miss out on the character-building experience of being picked last for a game of dodgeball. It's not that you're categorically unqualified to teach reading, or that putting Jesus in your kid's science book might cost him a couple of points on his SATs.

Those are the world's reasons for thinking that homeschooling is dangerous, and well, they miss the boat. 

Homeschooling isn't dangerous because of socialization issues, uneven teaching potential, or a lack of exposure to cultural norms. Homeschooling is dangerous because it shifts the paradigm. It drops the scales from eyes. It begs questions.

Once you have thrown off the coverlet of expectations (Child turns 3, goes to preschool. Child turns 5, goes to kindergarten. Child turns 16, goes to prom, et al) you're left with a raw, unexplored landscape to ponder. O.k, so no preschool, because I just don't think Billy needs that whole "socialization with other preschoolers" thing in order to be normal. But everyone else does. Why? If that one thing is untrue, then what else have I assumed that I might now discover is wrong?

This time of the year always brings a crop of new homeschoolers out of the woodwork. People who always thought they'd do things the normal way. The safe way. The acceptable way. They had no idea, as they sat cradling their newborn three or four years ago, that when the time came-- when the "Now Enrolling!" signs began popping up-- that they'd sneak a peek of their darling in the rearview mirror, gleefully shouting along to a WeeSing cd, and feel a pang in their heart. They had no idea that they'd hear well-meaning friends extoll the virtues of this school or that one, and suddenly feel empty. They had no idea that they'd ponder three hours a day, twice a week and think, "At his age?"

They had no idea that they would say no. That they'd turn their backs on the establishment. That they'd have the audacity, the strength, the insanity to try and do it themselves.

I love this time of year. I love new homeschoolers. They always strike me as being something like Alice, who falls into Wonderland. A little befuddled, genuinely curious, unable to contain the wonder and awe that they're feeling, they hunt for veterans to guide the way. When they find one, they either pounce or carefully tiptoe into a conversation. They want to know that it can be done. They want to know that they will succeed. They want to hear that they're not dooming their children, that their own families will come around, that they're doing the right thing.

I always tell them that yes, if they feel led to homeschool, they're doing the right thing. And then I warn them:

Don't be fooled. Homeschooling is dangerous.

Now that you've taken the first step, there will be others. You might start to wonder why on earth that Disney movie has to have that teenage girl fawning over a boy. You might find yourself unable to partake of the "drop-off" culture of Sunday School. You might find that modern literature is rubbish. You might even wonder who on earth thought Youth Groups were such a good idea, or who in their right mind came up with the idea of teaching a 5 year-old boy who'd rather build with Legos how to write.

There will be changes in your family. Your husband might grow a deeper connection with your children as they age than you see developing with institutionally schooled families around you. You might consider "just one more" child not such a bad thing. You might learn of a missions need on the other side of the world and not think twice about ditching it all to follow the call.

Stranger things have happened, you know.

Homeschooling is dangerous. It opens eyes--and families--to whole new, undiscovered possibilities. It rips off the comfort zone band-aid that we apply in our lives, and exposes us to whole new ways of thinking. It changes lives; not simply the lives of children, but the lives of entire families and communities.

Be warned, as you step foot into the next season of schooling for your family. Homeschooling is dangerous. It can take you anywhere. It's an unlocked door that leads to places and thoughts that most people would rather not entertain. It's not for everyone. But for those of us who have taken the red pill, well ...there's no way we'd ever go back to sleep.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Envibum diapers

If you want a diaper that no one notices, then please, pass on envibums. I really mean this. If you want to run into the nursery during church service, change your baby's diaper, and slip back into service in the space of just one song, do not put an envibum on your child.

Why? Because some other mom will see the minky cuteness you are strapping to your wee one's tush and ask you about it. She'll probably want to feel it. Then she'll have to know how much it costs, how well it works, where she can get her own.

It's like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ... only with cloth diapers.

Envibums are some of the softest, sweetest, cutest diapers I have ever seen. They are so plush that Seven, who has a major love of all things minky, can't seem to keep her hands off of hers. This has me slightly concerned, since envibums have hook and loop closures. She hasn't managed it yet, but I am wondering to what lengths this girl will go to snuzzle that diaper. In other words ... despite it's proven holding capacity, it's no longer a nap time dipe around here!

In addition to buttery fabrics, envibum has simply darling prints. The one Seven is so enamored with is an envicherry. It's been washed and dried multiple times each week for the past two months, and as you can see above, it still looks great. The hook and loop is in fine shape--something I'm always wary of. It's also stain-free. It's an unbleached cotton AIO, so I consider a lack of stains something of a miracle. I'm wondering if the unique inner design has anything to do with it? A waffle-weave interior attached to an absorbent pad that can either sit next to the baby's skin or tuck into a pocket stops leaks and keeps solids put. I haven't encountered this on any other diaper, but I like it!

Envibums are OS in additions to being AIOs. Seven fits hers perfectly at a long and lanky 22 lbs. The construction of the stretchy legs somehow magically shrinks and expands to make this diaper fit babies of all sizes. I admit that I was skeptical, so I tried it on a church friend's 9 lb. six week-old. It fit just right. Well, except for the fact that he looked a little funny in such a swanky, girly diaper.

In addition to being a fabulous diaper, envibums have a couple of other stellar features. Most impressive to me is the fact that the owner is unabashedly Christian, and isn't afraid to say so. Check out their logo:

Pretty cool, huh?

On top of that, an extensive list of charities is supported through the sale of these cute diapers. Envibum AIOs retail for $24.99. From that, $2 of every adorable envipink goes to support Crisis Pregnancy Centers. A portion of the envipurple proceeds benefits special needs children. What a blessing this company is!

I'm always in favor of choosing Christians to support with my dollars. Christians who make a sturdy product and pass on the love? Sign me up.

Ready for the giveaway? :-) Rachel, envibum's owner, is giving away one envibum print diaper and an additional absorbency pad to a BOOKS and BAIRNS reader. The winner gets their choice of print ... but you have to promise to email me and let you know what you picked, o.k.?


•Follow my blog, or already be a follower. Leave a comment to let me know. (mandatory entry)
Visit the envibum and peruse the print options. Come back here and leave a comment listing your favorite. (+1 entry)
•Like envibum on Facebook and post about the giveaway on your Facebook page. (+1 entry)
Blog about this giveaway (+1 entry)

Winner to be selected September 23. Have fun!
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Seven's favorite veggie is (drumroll please) baby bok choy

I've been reading a lot of food posts lately. Why? I have no idea. But it's been fun, and it's made me think, and really, it's helped me shake off the "it's not really summer yet" malaise that our cool, wet season has kept me floating in.

My favorites have been Anya's. Over at The Lovely Messy, she shared recently her family's journey from salads that felt incomplete without bleu cheese to shopping with a $20 bill for just what they need for the table that very day.

Oh, and they went vegan, too. Just in case the new shopping habits weren't enough to radicalize the situation.

We're not going vegan. The fact is that we can't afford it, and you know, I don't feel called to go there, anyhow. Dodging Oli's allergies is adventurous enough without worrying about animal products hiding in his dairy-, gluten-, and egg-free diet. We're roughly 75% vegetarian at this point, with fish and chicken playing the occasional supporting role on the table. Most meals are not meatcentric. In fact, my general rule is that at least half of your plate should be dominated by something raw--and since we're not serving up too much sushi around here, that's usually a veg.
Breakfast: baked oatmeal with fresh apricots

My personal food thing is knowing where my fuel comes from. The more I learn, the less inclined I am to buy items whose roots were deep in soil saturated with industrial farming chemicals. I'm also not fond of sprays and other nasties dousing what I'll eventually be putting in my body. I figure I don't chug the stuff straight from the bottle ... why should I lick the container when it's been emptied, if you know what I mean?

A recent dinner at Casa Blandings
I still buy bananas by the boatload from our local grocery store. I hate it, but I do it. I mean, they're organic and all ... but I now know a little too much about transporting food, etc. So I eye even what's on the big chain shelves and labeled "organically grown" with caution. And we're not even talking about the GMO/GE foods argument here. That one just gives me the creeps.

Thankfully, we have a local CSA that we love. We tried it last year, but quit for the winter months because we just weren't sure that box upon box of chard would seem very palatable week after week. This year, though, I think we're sticking with it past the flush of the summer months. Why?

Last night's main course--braised veggies
Because actually, it turns out that it's almost the same price as buying from a store. Say what? Yes--it's true. I did the math, and here it is: I spend $10 more per week by buying locally farmed, organically certified produce than I do when shopping at the local big box grocer.

So I can spend more and get food that comes from who knows where and is who knows how old ... or I can spend another ten bucks and walk the fields where my carrots are grown, know the guy who planted them, and eat them the day after they're pulled from the clean earth.

Yeah, I'll spend $10 more. Thanks.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Images from the first day

We started our new school year today. There were some workbooks.

There was some reading.

There were little guys figuring out how things work.

There were chances to bless one another by helping.

And there were hands to keep busy during read alouds, of course.

We're off and running on another leg of our homeschool adventure!